Fad or Fortune


This lesson printed from:


Remember Beanie Babies? How about Pet Rocks? Have you hugged a Cabbage Patch Doll lately? Flipped your Pogs? How much would you pay for any of these items today? Or do you see them in the "free" box at garage sales? These are all examples of collectible items that could be classified as a fad. How would you define a baseball playerfad?

How about that Babe Ruth baseball card? The Mickey Mouse sketch autographed by Walt Disney? The first-edition comic book of Superman? Does anyone still want any of that old junk? Or would these be better classified as fortunes? What makes a collectible hold its value over time?

What other collectibles can you think of that fit the fads or fortunes category?


In this lesson, you'll be participating in a trading game to simulate the collectibles trading market. You'll follow the trading rules as you work to amass your fortune in collectibles. In each round you will record the value of your collectibles and devise your trading strategy for the next round. Your goal is to have the highest Final Value at the end of the game.

Based on this experience and your real-life experiences with collectibles, you'll examine factors that affect the value of collectibles. You will also discuss trading strategies and make predictions about what current collectibles that might become fads or be worth fortunes.


Your teacher will give you one set of Mystery Trading Items. These are the collectibles that you will be trading during this simulation. You will also receive a Recording Form to record the value of your collectible items. baseball

But wait, first there are some rules...

  1. Each round will last for three minutes.
  2. The value of each item will be announced at the end of each round by your teacher.
  3. You may complete as many trades as you want to in each round. Trades must be mutually agreed-upon before the trade is final.
  4. If an item becomes crumpled or torn, it loses all of its value and should be discarded. We only trade items in "mint" condition.
  5. If you cause another student's item to be crumpled or torn, that student may select and keep any one item from your collection--this is the "you break it, you buy it" rule! Let's just play nicely. Remember, it's just a game with little sheets of paper!

After each round of trading, you will record the value of your items and how many of each item you have. Your teacher will tell you if you are going to do the calculations now or later. Reflect on how each round went. How did your strategy for the round work out? What strategy will you use in the next round?

Before each round begins, devise a trading strategy. How will you make trading decisions without knowing the actual value of the items in round one?

Good luck!


How did ypencilou do? Are you satisfied with your collection's final value? What could you have done differently? What was your best decision? What was your worst decision? Which items represented fads or fortunes? For a better idea of the value of things on the collectibles market, go to the "appraise it yourself" section of the Antiques Roadshow site and look at the value of some real-life collectibles.

Why would a collectible's value increase and then suddenly decrease? Can you think of any examples of this? Why do some items retain their value or increase over time? What examples of this can you think of? What makes an item a fad or a fortune? Have you ever traded something you wish you would have kept? Have you ever kept something you wish you would have traded?


Now that you've made your fortune (or not!) in the mystery trading game, make a prediction about what current collectible will end up as a fad or a fortune. Be sure to give reasons that support your prediction!


  • When this lesson was created in 2004, there were 1,864,477 items in the collectible category on eBay, ranging in asking price from as high as $20 million (no bids!) to as low as 1 cent (1 bid!). What collectibles are actually receiving lots of bids owatchn eBay today? What is the highest-priced item? What is the lowest-priced item? Have you ever sold or purchased anything on eBay? What strategies do you use? What good or bad trading experiences have you had with eBay?
  • Make a timeline of collectible fads that have occurred during your lifetime. Ask an adult about other fads that they remember.
  • Graph the data from your recording form. You could graph each round value or the individual item total values for each round.